Sunday, August 22, 2010

Game On, You Lifeless Nerds

So on the weekend I went to the Game On 2.0 exhibition. Think of it like an old-school crazy arcade crossed with a history lesson in videogames, and you’re halfway there. It was basically a whole lot of classic (and not so classic) games, lined up in no particular order, from Pong to Space Invaders, Halo, Dungeon Quests, Animal Crossings, Super Marios, and everything in between – pinball machines, antique home consoles you couldn’t touch like the Amiga Intellivision, Super Nintendo classics like Metroid, all the way through to the future of gaming – Nvidia 3D, mind control, and… Virtual Boy, apparently. Anyway, here’s a recap.

Of course Pong was the first game of the exhibition. On a massive projector, you and your poor friend (held at gunpoint, no doubt) were subjected to all the fun of a real tennis game! As a history lesson, Pong excels, but unfortunately it’s almost bit cliché nowadays. All gamers know Pong was the first interactive game available to the masses. It’s a tennis sim that plays like crap. I quickly moved on.

The number of arcade machines on hand were staggering. I only caught a small glimpse of the madness, more than thirty of these wonderful machines in all. Pac-Man Plus was unfortunately the only Pac-Man variant on hand, and while it played as well as ever, its difficulty over other Pac-Man iterations made it not very fun to play. Then Asteroids, whose LED-backed CRT nearly caused terminal blindness in my good eye. Actually, all the arcade machines seemed to only cement that all game developers are money-grabbing bastards. They Game Over’d quicker than your mother, and while each one was loaded with over 1000 credits, you couldn’t help but feel like kids back then were goddamn stupid, feeding their coins to it over and over, somehow oblivious to the fact that you don’t beat the game – the game beats you. I moved on because I got a headache there.

There was a section on videogame movies, but I saw a Street Fighter poster so I ran away.

Actually it did feel like some games were there just because. Innovators in their field were aplenty, like Super Mario 64, the visually stunning Vib Ribbon, and what have you, but I ask – does Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria deserve a place in gaming history? Honestly? Does Halo 2? Does Animal Crossing? The real classics were there (though the lack of the original Super Mario Bros., or Sonic the Hedgehog seemed like a real oversight), but they were interspersed by games that have no place. Guitar Hero 5, for example. Beatles Rock Band. Sure, they show you an example of the genres, and I suppose Guitar Hero has cemented itself as a juggernaut of party gaming, but where are the true originals? Eye Toy? Why does Super Smash Bros. Melee get a big-screen while Metroid is limited to a 10'' LCD? Where was Duck Hunter? The whole “history” thing seemed to peel away and it became more of a gaming festival of sorts, where “popular” was defined only by the manager’s preference. Why an interactive ecchi RPG is more important in the annals of gaming history than Pokémon is beyond me.

Overall, it was an interesting look at gaming culture. Sweep through the bullshit and preachiness, and there a genuine theme of evolution running throughout the whole thing. Many, many of the retro games were well ahead of their time (Vib Ribbon a good example of this), and games like Half-life 2 and Portal neatly juxtaposed the Halo 3 8-player LAN demonstration nearby (where no-one seemed to understand how camping works, allowing me to sit on top of the sniper rifle spawn and rack up the kills one by bloody one). But the true “classics” vary from person to person, and you could feel the opinion of those involved setting up the exhibition very clearly. It was biased, but it was interesting. This is the second exhibition of Game On (thus the 2.0), so maybe we can expect a Game On 3.0, one that’s less like E3, and more like GDC.

Game On 2.0 runs from 3 July to the 3 October at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. It costs a single silver nickel, but if you go, you can't have any sweets. (This is a lie, it's like $12 for a student.) If you game, and if you're in Launceston, you really should check it out, if only for the interactive Death Ball virtual reality machine... of doom.

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